Today's Fair Shots - August 15, 2017
1-House Dramatically Rejects Payroll Dues Deduction Amendment
2-Bill to Artificially Cap Spending by Local Governments Pronounced Dead
3-Texas Building & Construction Trades Council Elects Officers
4-Following Events in Charlottesville, Texas A&M Cancels White Supremacist Rally Over Safety Concerns
1) In an important victory for teachers, correctional officers, child abuse investigators, police, fire fighters and other public employees, the Texas House voted today to reject a last ditch effort to shoehorn the issue of banning voluntary payroll dues deduction into a blue-ribbon study of school finance.
The 49-78 vote on an amendment to SB 16 by Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, was the first time the issue of payroll dues deduction has hit the House floor. The result: strong bipartisan opposition and a message that there is no problem with allowing public employees the freedom to spend their paychecks as they see fit.
The context of the vote is interesting. SB 7, the bill that would strip public employees of the freedom to authorize payroll dues deduction, has been championed by Gov. Greg Abbott, who included the measure in his list of priorities during his State of the State speech, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who made the bill a top priority of the Senate.
The bill rocketed out of the Senate in early March and again early in the special session. SB 7 has languished in the House, however, because of bipartisan opposition in evidence in today's vote. That led supporters to look for opportunities to insert the bill into other pieces of legislation. So far, that tactic has not worked. Zedler, who has carried worker-opposed legislation in the past, sought to revive the matter again in the context of the future of our public schools.
The House wasn't buying. It was easy to see that school finance is too important to become bogged down on an issue that demonstrably has nothing to do with taxpayer dollars. As we have said again and again, and as has been acknowledged even by authors of the bill, payroll dues deduction does not cost taxpayers money.
There is no constituency for SB 7 other than those who have a problem when members of labor organizations, union or non-union, speak up together. As we saw today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers knows that SB 7 crosses a line of basic fairness and does not define any problem that is worthy of legislation.
Despite today's result, this is not the time to celebrate. The special session has up to two more full days, and the United Labor Legislative Committee will remain vigilant in protecting the freedom of public employees to speak up together.
2) Among other bills that the United Labor Legislative Committee has opposed, SB 18 by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, was pronounced dead today.
Estes half-jokingly declared he was postponing the bill that would have placed artificial spending caps on local government to 2019. ULLCO strongly opposed SB 18, one of several bills in the special session aimed at taking power from local governments.
Although Gov. Greg Abbott saw fit to place this matter on the agenda, it could not even clear the low bar of a Texas Senate that otherwise rammed 18 of 19 other Abbott items through its process in little more than a week.
3) Congratulations from the officers and staff of the Texas AFL-CIO to the outstanding labor activists who were elected to offices at last week's Texas Building & Construction Trades Council convention, held in Austin.
The state labor federation enjoys a superb working relationship with the Council, and we get the bonus of interacting with Brother Leonard Aguilar on a daily basis in our headquarters building. The Council does right by construction workers across the state.
Via Brother Aguilar, the officers include:
President: Clarence Baker w/ IUEC 21
Executive Director & Secretary Treasurer: Leonard Aguilar, UAPP 142
Executive Vice President: John Easton Jr., IBEW 716
Dist. 1: T.J. Dodd, UAPP286
Dist. 2: Craig Berendzen, UAPP 100
Dist. 3: Open
Dist. 4: Ronnie Smitherman, IWLU 263
Dist. 5: Edward Vargocko, IWLU 84
Dist. 6: Jimmy Burk, IBEW 479
Dist. 7: Mark Potter, UAPP 142
Dist. 8: Jeff LaBroski, UAPP 68
Dist. 9: Open
Tx Elevator Constructor Unions: David Lopez Jr., IUEC 21
4) In the wake of the events in Charlottesville, Texas A&M announced today a white supremacist rally planned for 9/11 has been canceled.
The announcement came after a bipartisan series of heartfelt speeches in the Texas House and Senate and vows by lawmakers to be part of a counter-protest. The Texas Tribune reports the announcement by Texas A&M is far from the end of the story, with a lawsuit likely:
Saying they're concerned about student safety, Texas A&M University leaders announced Monday that they have canceled a planned white nationalist rally on campus.
The school said in a statement that it made the decision after consulting law enforcement and "considerable study." The event won't happen because of "concerns about the safety of its students, faculty, staff and the public," the school said.
The move is sure to prompt questions about its legality, however, because A&M is a public university that can't block an event because of the views of its organizer.